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Bill Belichick is leaving the New England Patriots after 24 seasons and 6 NFL titles

Bill Belichick appears on the sideline during his last game as head coach of the New England Patriots on Jan. 7, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass.
Michael Dwyer
/
AP
Bill Belichick appears on the sideline during his last game as head coach of the New England Patriots on Jan. 7, 2024, in Foxborough, Mass.

Updated January 11, 2024 at 12:39 PM ET

The New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick will be parting ways, the two sides announced on Thursday, ending a legendary run that resulted in six Super Bowl titles and transformed the team into one of the most successful dynasties in NFL history.

Belichick's departure from the Patriots after 24 years caps a remarkable run that was defined by dominant season after dominant season. The Patriots posted winning records in all but four years under Belichick, who leaves the franchise with 333 wins, second only to former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula (347).

Belichick made the announcement standing alongside Patriots owner Robert Kraft from the team's headquarters in Foxborough, Mass.

"We had a vision of building a winner, building a championship football team here, and that's exceeded my wildest dreams and expectations, the amount of success that we were able to achieve together through a lot of hard work and contributions of so many people," Belichick said.

A gruff, no-nonsense personality, Belichick was known for preaching what came to be known as the "Patriot Way" — a philosophy defined by accountability, preparation, excellence and above all, winning. Together with quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick led the Patriots to 19 consecutive winning seasons, 17 division titles and nine Super Bowl appearances in all.

The Brady/Belichick connection grew into one of the most successful coach/quarterback tandems professional football has ever seen. But when Brady left the Patriots in March 2020, the team struggled to replicate its past success. The Patriots have posted a 29-38 record since Brady left, missing the playoffs in three of four seasons.

Belichick leaves the team after a forgettable 4-13 season that saw the Patriots finish last in their division.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after winning Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.
Matt Slocum / AP
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AP
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after winning Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.

How it began

His career in New England began in 2000, after Belichick was lured to the Patriots from the rival New York Jets by Kraft. It was a marriage that almost didn't take place at all. At the time, Belichick was set to take over as coach of the Jets, but just hours before his introductory press conference he changed his mind and famously scribbled on a sheet of notebook paper, "I resign as HC of the NYJ."

In his first year with the team the Patriots went 5-11, but their fortunes dramatically changed the following year when Belichick made the decision to elevate Brady — at the time a backup in just his second season — to the starting job. Brady would lead the team to its first ever Super Bowl title that year, a 20-17 win over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.

It was the start of a memorable run that saw the Patriots win back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004, followed by three more titles in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

"Like a good marriage, a successful head coach/owner relationship requires a lot of hard work, and I'm very proud that our partnership lasted for 24 years. I don't think in the NFL there's been any other partnership that lasted longer and has been as productive as ours," Kraft told reporters on Thursday.

The team's success was not without controversy, though. In 2007, the Patriots were found videotaping opposing teams' signals during games, a scandal that came to be known as "Spygate." The NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000. The team was also forced to forfeit their first-round pick in the following year's NFL draft.

In 2015 came the "Deflategate" controversy, when the team was accused of underinflating footballs to help give Brady an edge. The team strenuously denied the allegations, but still lost Brady to a four-game suspension.

His next stop is not clear

Those scandals aside, the consistency with which Belichick found success in New England is unmatched, and he leaves the team widely regarded as the greatest coach in NFL history.

Belichick has not said what his next step will be, but he is expected to be a top candidate for either of the eight other NFL teams currently searching for a new head coach. It is believed that a top consideration for him will be the ability to have final say over roster construction — a luxury he enjoyed in New England, but one rarely afforded to other NFL coaches.

At 71 years old, Belichick's next stop is likely to be his last. But it is also where with just 15 more victories, he would take his place as the most winning coach in league history.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason Breslow